Myanmar might finally be held accountable for genocide, but the court case must recognise sexual violence


Susan Hutchinson, Australian National University

It has been more than two years since “clearance operations” by Myanmar’s security forces, the Tatmadaw, forced more than 700,000 Rohingya across the border to neighbouring Bangladesh.

During this time, the UN Security Council has remained silent on the plight of Rohingya, with China and Russia working to keep it off the council’s agenda.




Read more:
Explainer: why the UN has found Myanmar’s military committed genocide against the Rohingya


But at the UN General Assembly last month, The Gambia announced it would take the Myanmar government to the International Court of Justice for the genocide of the Rohingya.

Vice-President Isatou Touray said The Gambia is:

a small country with a big voice on matters of human rights on the continent and beyond. […] The Gambia is ready to lead the concerted efforts for taking the Rohingya issue to the International Court of Justice on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and we are calling on all stakeholders to support this process.

Myanmar might finally be held accountable, but defending the Rohingya from genocide shouldn’t just be left to the global Islamic community. They need to be joined by countries with an interest in reducing the sexual and gender based violence at the core of the Tatmadaw’s genocidal campaign.

Otherwise, these important issues may not be sufficiently included in the case due to regional religious politics.

Sexual and gender violence

Last year, a Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission report detailed serious breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law by members of the Tatmadaw, including killing, rape, torture, arson and forced displacement.

The report also detailed how the Myanmar government, as a whole, was responsible for perpetrating these crimes, and should be held to account.

‘An OIC film on the Rohingya issue, a continuing tragedy of human rights violations and unimaginable humanitarian suffering’

In an additional report released in August this year, the fact-finding mission found sexual and gender based violence was:

part of a deliberate, well-planned strategy to intimidate, terrorise
and punish a civilian population.

The sheer volume of pregnant women in the refugee camps was one early indicator of the extent to which sexual violence was used against women and girls. But the mission also found it was used against men, boys and trans people.

In their view, acts of sexual and gender based violence were committed as genocide.




Read more:
‘They shot my two daughters in front of me’: Rohingya tell heartbreaking stories of loss and forced migration


In general, the UN Security Council has recognised the use of sexual violence as genocide, but they haven’t tied it to the crisis in Myanmar.

The council has passed nine resolutions on women, peace and security. Among other things, these resolutions call for the protection of women and girls, men and boys from conflict-related sexual violence, and urge countries to end to impunity for these crimes.

So, it is of the utmost importance that the sexual- and gender-based violence used in the genocide is accounted for in any International Court of Justice (ICJ) case.

How can the ICJ help?

The ICJ adjudicates between states, not individuals. Although individuals commit genocidal acts, under the Genocide Convention of 1948, states also have responsibility for preventing and punishing the crime of genocide.

Myanmar signed the UN’s Genocide Convention in 1957, which contains an article giving the ICJ jurisdiction if another state thinks they’ve breached their obligations.

This means once the case comes before the court, it can make rulings within a matter of days that would be binding on the government of Myanmar, the Security Council, or both. What’s more, it can begin almost immediately and can have immediate effect inside Myanmar.




Read more:
Citizens of nowhere: one million Rohingya still without rights, status or justice


This could make a big difference for Rohingya still inside Myanmar who are experiencing the ongoing genocide.

An ICJ case could also serve as a way to recognise and remedy the collective harm of the sexual- and gender-based violence, not just the harm experienced by individuals.

International efforts

The Gambia has called on other countries to join it in taking a case against Myanmar to the ICJ. Canadian civil society and parliamentarians have been working to convince their government to bring such a case for more than a year. Importantly, a case from Canada against Myanmar would include sexual- and gender-based violence.

And there are a range of reasons why Canada would step forward in support of The Gambia’s case. Taking such action would align with Canada’s foreign policy objectives, such as those on human rights and women, peace and security.




Read more:
World must act to end the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar


Canada is also campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council, but they have stiff competition from Ireland and Norway.

Taking Myanmar to the ICJ would show Canada is a strong international actor, able to work for the good of global peace and security, navigating the full set of challenges posed by the permanent members of the Security Council.

But other countries can – and should – support The Gambia’s case and ensure the inclusion of sexual and gender-based violence in a range of ways.

ICJ cases are usually long and costly. Interested countries could offer financial assistance for The Gambia’s case. They can also join the case as co-applicants in support of The Gambia’s leadership.




Read more:
Rohingya: killings should remind all nations of their responsibility to protect victims of mass atrocity crimes


Lastly, once the case is lodged, the court allows other countries to intervene. Countries unwilling to come forward as co-applicants could ensure gendered and sexual violence issues are included by making just such an intervention.

At the Security Council later this month, UN Member States will have the opportunity to participate in the annual open debate on women, peace and security.

By then, someone must surely be able to stand up and say:

we stand with The Gambia, we will take the government of Myanmar to the International Court of Justice, to hold them to account for the sexual and gender based violence they perpetrated as genocide against the Rohingya.The Conversation

Susan Hutchinson, PhD Candidate, Australian National University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Rugby league may finally have reached its tipping point on player behaviour and violence



File 20190221 120329 1no56ia.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
The Sharks’ Ben Barba (centre) was sacked by his club after allegations he assaulted his partner.
AAP/Dan Himbrechts

Jessica Richards, Western Sydney University; Eric Anderson, University of Winchester, and Keith D. Parry, University of Winchester

St George Illawarra and NSW State of Origin player Jack de Belin has become the first player to be banned under a new “no fault stand down” policy introduced by the National Rugby League (NRL).

This policy allows the NRL to stand down players facing criminal charges that carry a jail term of 11 years or more, pending the outcome. Players will remain on full pay and will be allowed to continue to train with their teams until the matter is resolved.

In December 2018, the NRL was urged to take “urgent action” after a spate of allegations of domestic violence and assault by players. The sport’s governing body was accused of failing to adequately condemn these acts of violence against women.

Could it be that finally rugby league is listening to the criticism?

Just a few weeks ago, Ben Barba was sacked by his NRL club following allegations he physically assaulted his partner and mother of his four children. After a history of off-field incidents, he was deregistered by the NRL. Despite one former player speaking out in support of Barba, he has been widely condemned by the NRL community.

Violence on the field too often translates to violence off the field. Barba’s sacking should herald a culture shift in the NRL away from versions of masculinity that are exclusive and threatening to women. The sport must move towards a culture that is better aligned with the values of society.

Rugby League – a bastion of masculinity

For many years, rugby league has provided an outlet for violence that allows masculinity to be performed.

Throughout the 1980s and into the 1990s, league epitomised orthodox masculine characteristics such as aggressive competition and toughness. Fighting, confrontation and belligerence has been revered in media coverage and by the wider public. For example, The Footy Show valorised versions of masculinity that portrayed men as hyper-heterosexual, stoic and aggressive. The hosts repeatedly demonstrated disrespect for women.

But in recent years, social customs, gender relations and the expectations of even hyper-masculine warrior athletes began to change. The Footy Show has been cancelled; and evidence from America’s most similar sport, American football (NFL), suggests that since 2006, there has been a slight decrease in players arrested for domestic violence.

Barba’s sacking appears to provide evidence of an emerging social contract with masculinity. No longer is men’s violence acceptable to the public. Rugby League — finally now — is taking action.

While player welfare is important, so is the welfare of women. The “boys will be boys” excuse no longer stands. NRL endorsed campaigns, such as Power For Change, an initiative described as “empowering young people to be leaders of change against domestic violence”, appeared hypocritical in the face of five sexual assault charges in the most recent off-season. On the sixth, the NRL took action.

It appeared the Australian sporting community had had enough. NRL fans, particularly, were fed up with misbehaving players and seeking significant change. Sanctioning players with bans and fines has proven ineffective.

In addition to introducing their “no fault stand down policy”, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has called on other codes to honour the NRL-imposed ban. The Northern Hemisphere Super League has closed the door on Barba and Rugby Australia boss, Raelene Castle, said they would also respect the NRL’s wishes.

Inclusive masculinities

The NRL is today at a crossroads.

There has been a highly visible, and extensively documented phenomenon that millennial men reject orthodox notions of masculinity. They instead value intimacy among friends, tactility, respect for women, and disregard for violence. Much of the reason for this is considered to be related to changing mores surrounding male homosexuality. When this changes, so does everything about masculinity.

The sociological work on this suggests that when heterosexual men exist in a culture that maintains high antipathy toward gay men (as existed in the 1980s), they will try to distance themselves from anything associated with gay men. Thus, men revere violence and stoicism, and hyper-sexualise women. They are thought weak for showing emotions concerning care for other men, or fear of confrontation.

However, as cultural attitudes have shifted, making homophobia and not homosexuality stigmatised, heterosexual men have more social freedom to express gender in ways that were once taboo. So it becomes permissible to talk your way through a problem with another male instead of fighting.

Scholars call this inclusive masculinity, but more colloquially it might be understood as a highly revered, feminised masculinity. In the last few decades, we have seen wholesale shifts to adolescent masculinities, something epitomised by the burgeoning of the “bromance”.




Read more:
The bromance is blossoming, says study


The NRL has divided fans with its recent rule change. Although the rule change sends a strong message to players and clubs that violence will not be tolerated within the code, until the wider culture of Rugby League begins embracing alternative forms of masculinity, the cause of the problem will still remain.The Conversation

Jessica Richards, Lecturer Sport Business Management, Western Sydney University; Eric Anderson, Professor of Masculinities, Sexualities and Sport, University of Winchester, and Keith D. Parry, Senior Lecturer in Sport Management, University of Winchester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why this generation of teens is more likely to care about gun violence


Jean Twenge, San Diego State University

When 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, it was just the latest in a tragic list of mass shootings, many of them at schools.

Then something different happened: Teens began to speak out. The Stoneman Douglas students held a press conference appealing for gun control. Teens in Washington, D.C., organized a protest in front of the White House, with 17 lying on the ground to symbolize the lives lost. More protests organized by teens are planned for the coming months.

Teens weren’t marching in the streets calling for gun control after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. So why are today’s teens and young adults – whom I’ve dubbed “iGen” in my recent book on this generation – speaking out and taking action?

With mass shootings piling up one after another, this is a unique historical moment. But research shows that iGen is also a unique generation – one that may be especially sensitive to gun violence.

Keep me safe

People usually don’t think of teenagers as risk-averse. But for iGen, it’s been a central tenant of their upbringing and outlook.

During their childhoods, they experienced the rise of the helicopter parent, anti-bullying campaigns and, in some cases, being forced to ride in car seats until age 12.

Their behavior has followed suit. For my book, I conducted analyses of large, multi-decade surveys. I found that today’s teens are less likely to get into physical fights and less likely to get into car accidents than teens just 10 years ago. They’re less likely to say they like doing dangerous things and aren’t as interested in taking risks. Meanwhile, since 2000, rates of teen binge drinking have fallen by half.

With the culture so focused on keeping children safe, many teens seem incredulous that extreme forms of violence against kids can still happen – and yet so many adults are unwilling to address the issue.

“We call on our national and state legislatures to finally act responsibly and reduce the number of these tragic incidents,” said Eleanor Nuechterlein and Whitney Bowen, the teen organizers of the D.C. lie-in. “It’s essential that we all feel safe in our classrooms.”

Treated with kid gloves

In a recent analysis of survey data from 8 million teens since the 1970s, I also found that today’s teens tend to delay a number of “adult” milestones. They’re less likely than their predecessors to have a driver’s license, go out without their parents, date, have sex, and drink alcohol by age 18.

This could mean that, compared to previous generations, they’re more likely to think of themselves as children well into their teen years.

As 17-year-old Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg put it, “We’re children. You guys are the adults. You need to take some action.”

Furthermore, as this generation has matured, they’ve witnessed stricter age regulations for young people on everything from buying cigarettes (with the age minimum raised to 21 in several states) to driving (with graduated driving laws).

Politicians and parents have been eager to regulate what young people can and can’t do. And that’s one reason some of the survivors find it difficult to understand why gun purchases aren’t as regulated.

“If people can’t purchase marijuana or alcohol at the age of 18, why should they be given access to guns?” asked Stoneman Douglas High School junior Lyliah Skinner.

She has a point: The shooter, Nikolas Cruz, is 19. Under Florida’s laws, he could legally possess a firearm at age 18. But – because he’s under 21 – he couldn’t buy alcohol.

Libertarianism – with limits

At the same time, iGen teens – like their millennial predecessors – are highly individualistic. They believe the rights of the individual should trump traditional social rules. For example, I found that they’re more supportive of same-sex marriage and legalized marijuana than previous generations were at the same age.

Their political beliefs tend to lean toward libertarianism, a philosophy that favors individual rights over government regulations, including gun regulation. Sure enough, support for protecting gun rights increased among millennials and iGen between 2007 and 2016.

But even a libertarian ideologue would never argue that individual freedom extends to killing others. So perhaps today’s teens are realizing that one person’s loosely regulated gun rights can lead to another person’s death – or the death of 17 of their teachers and classmates.

The teens’ demands could be seen as walking this line: They’re not asking for wholesale prohibitions on all guns. Instead, they’re hoping for reforms supported by most Americans such as restricting the sale of assault weapons and more stringent background checks.

In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the teens’ approach to activism – peaceful protest, a focus on safety and calls for incremental gun regulation – are fitting for this generation.

The ConversationPerhaps iGen will lead the way to change.

Jean Twenge, Professor of Psychology, San Diego State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Violent politics and the disintegration of democracy in Cambodia


Caroline Bennett, Victoria University of Wellington

Kem Sokha, the leader of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), was charged with treason last week, amid allegations of conspiring with a foreign power to overthrow the government.

In all likelihood, the charges mean the imminent dissolution of the main opposition party, leaving the ruling party – the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) – the only real contender in next year’s general elections.

The charges are the latest in the rolling back of democratic processes in the nation. They also reflect a shift in global democracy.

Destroying democracy

The latest development follows a pattern that has included alleged electoral intimidation in the recent commune elections, media suppression, and increasing threats of violence and conflict should the opposition win.

In the last three weeks, 17 radio providers that gave airtime to the opposition and aired programs produced by the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia – two Washington-based outlets that often include political critique – have had their licences revoked.

Last Monday, The Cambodia Daily, an English-language newspaper renowned for hard-hitting journalism, closed after 24 years, after being hit with an unaudited tax bill of US$6.3 million, with no course of appeal.


Read more: Cambodia Daily closure a major blow for freedom of information and expression in the country


In August, the National Democratic Institute’s office in Cambodia was forced to close, and its foreign staff were deported, following alleged infringement of the Law on Associations and Non-governmental Organisations (LANGO). This law was passed earlier this year, severely restricting the rights of civil society actors across the nation.

These actions are largely agreed to be manoeuvres to consolidate the political power of the CPP under the increasingly autocratic rule of Prime Minister Hun Sen, who, following Sokha’s arrest, has declared he will rule for another ten years.

The violence of Hun Sen

My research shows that Cambodian politics has always been a sphere of violence, but that since the 1993 UN-backed elections, it has happened under a veneer of liberal democracy.

According to Human Rights Watch, Hun Sen has the worst human rights record of any “democratic” leader.

Although his party lost the 1993 elections, he forced a coalition, before seizing power after violent clashes in 1997. Elections since then have been plagued by accusations of fraud, corruption and voter intimidation. Hun Sen’s personal bodyguard is implicated in much public violence, including brutal beatings of political opponents.

But these current moves are happening in increasingly public spaces. Their intensification appears to be aimed at preventing a replay of the shock results of the 2013 general elections, when the ruling party lost 22 seats to the CNRP, giving the ruling party its lowest share of seats since 1998.

2013: the beginning of the end

I was in Cambodia for the 2013 elections doing research for my PhD on the legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime. My work involved examining contemporary Cambodian politics.

The success of the opposition took many of us by surprise. Despite the allegations of fraud and corruption, the result seemed promising for its indication of free voting – there was hope that it marked a positive move for democracy. But among threats of civil conflict and unrest, the result also provoked tension.

Protests occurred in the capital, and several people were shot. Rumours started to circulate that Hun Sen had mobilised the army and that the deputy prime minister, Sok An, was planning a coup. Fear and tension bubbled below the surface for many of the people I was working with.

Hun Sen has repeatedly threatened civil war should he lose the elections. His threats are grounded in the all-too-well-remembered violent history of the Khmer Rouge, when up to 1.7 million people were killed.

In 2011, following the Arab Spring, Hun Sen threatened to kill anyone resisting his rule. Earlier this year he said:

To ensure the lives of millions of people, we are willing to eliminate 100 or 200 people.

Some in Cambodia fear he will be true to his word. It seems unlikely that Hun Sen will let the 2018 election result get as close as it did in 2013. After all, he has never shunned the threat of violence as a means of control.

Hun Sen also has the support of Tep Vong, supreme patriarch of the Cambodian Buddhist sect of Mohanikay. He has previously condoned controlling the freedom of the people, thereby ensuring spiritual legitimacy as well as political impunity for Hun Sen’s actions.

Global shifts in despotism, crumbling democracies

The moves towards media control and suppression of the opposition parallel turns across the globe. They reflect the rolling back of democracy and a rise of autocratic leaders in so-called democratic countries.

In April this year, a referendum in Turkey voted for constitutional reforms that give President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan single-handed rule with the right to pass new laws and dissolve parliament at will.

This legislation followed the failed coup in 2016. In the subsequent crackdown thousands of journalists, academics and lawmakers were jailed, and at least 156 media outlets forced to close. Turkey now has more journalists in prison than any other nation.


Read more: Turkey’s constitutional referendum: experts express fear for a divided country


Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has admitted murder, threatened killings of drug dealers (and likened himself to Hitler in the process) and said he would pass political impunity laws to protect himself. More than 7,000 people have reportedly been killed in the last year.

In Poland, the ruling party passed legislation restricting the freedom of the press and giving itself increasing control of the courts. Only the prime minister’s signature is needed for action.

According to US think tank Freedom House, 2016 was:

… characterised by an erosion of democratic institutions and a rise of autocratic practices across the globe.

Political violence, open suppression

Violence in politics is not new. The control of the people in Cambodia is not new. What is new is the increasing confidence of leaders, such as Hun Sen, to flex their political muscles openly and violently with complete confidence in their political impunity.

Cambodia is often heralded as a nation with an exciting future due to high levels of investment and development support. But the success of its peace and democracy is openly crumbling.

The ConversationThe CPP needs a powerful opposition to prevent complete disintegration of democracy and human rights. It’s making sure that is not possible.

Caroline Bennett, Lecturer in Cultural Anthropology, Victoria University of Wellington

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.